The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld consumer claims of misleading advertising against Dublin-based developer Playrix. The claims were made about certain ads featuring puzzles in which players need to pull pins to save a trapped character or obtain treasure.
What has Playrix done?
This news comes via the BBC. The ads in question, which are for match-three games Homescapes and Gardenscapes, depict characters in situations which require players to strategically pull pins in order to help them escape. Though the ASA makes specific reference to Facebook ads, Playrix has also advertised these games within other mobile games and on YouTube. The ASA says the ads are "not representative of the games they were purported to feature".
For its part, Playrix claimed its games were "far more complex than 'match-three' type games", according to the ASA. The developer says the ads "appealed to the logic and problem-solving skills" required to achieve victory in both Homescapes and Gardenscapes. Playrix said it had included text informing players that the ads were not necessarily depicting actual gameplay, but the ASA understood that the vast majority of the gameplay in both games was not represented by the ads.
Ads depicting pin-based puzzles for Homescapes and Gardenscapes began to appear in April 2020. Communities quickly began to form in which users decried what they saw as false or misleading advertising for those games. This isn't the first time Playrix has advertised its games with content that's unrepresentative of the product being advertised, either. Ads not depicting match three gameplay for Homescapes have been appearing to players for at least a year, with both Reddit communities and YouTubers noting that Homescapes and Gardenscapes ads weren't showing the gameplay the games actually featured.
What does this mean for Playrix?
According to the ASA, Playrix has breached three of its CAP Code rules:
- Rule 3.1: Misleading advertising - marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so
- Rule 3.9: Qualification - marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify
- Rule 3.11: Exaggeration - marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product
The ASA says the ads in question "must not appear again in the form complained of", meaning Playrix will need to alter the way it advertises these games in future. Specifically, the ASA stipulated that Playrix's ads must present "gameplay which [is] representative" of the games being advertised. This ruling only applies to the UK, however, so if you're not based in the UK, you may continue to see ads like these until a similar ruling is made in your respective region.
It's worth noting that Playrix isn't the only company to advertise its games thusly. Hero Wars, a mobile game that's also available on PC via browser, uses a similar form of advertising. Much like Homescapes and Gardenscapes, Hero Wars doesn't mostly consist of pin puzzles; rather, it's a casual clicker game that occasionally features puzzles of the kind depicted in its ads.
We don't yet know what the future holds for other gaming companies who are using this style of advertising. If the ASA's decision is a precedent, then it's likely many of these other companies will need to change the form of their ads in order to be allowed to continue advertising their products. We'll bring you more on the pin-pulling puzzle problem as we get it. In the meantime, you can read the ASA's full decision on Playrix's ads right here.
Have you seen these ads? What do you think of the ASA's decision? Let us know in the comments below!